Category Archives: Video Games

Mech_Con Roundup Day 2 – Harebrained Show, Catalyst Announcements, And A New MWOWC Champion!

Day 2, electric boogaloo! After PGI had their big huzzah on the first day of Mech_Con 2018, the rest of the BattleTech companies got their chance at glory. We had Harebrained Schemes show off their latest BattleTech expansion: Flashpoint, Catalyst Game Labs revealed some fancy dice and that the new box sets aren’t a year-long fever dream, and the MechWarrior Online World Championships crowned a new champion! 

Harebrained Schemes Has Old Men Fight In Giant Robots

Once again, Harebrained decided to showcase their latest creation by making FASA co-founder Jordan Weisman and Harebrained co-founder Mitch Gitelman duel to the death, but this time, instead of mindlessly jumping on each other for a solid hour, they had Hatchetmen. Er, I mean henchmen.

So that went well.

I sadly did not get to see this hopefully yearly tradition when it was broadcast live on Twitch, but thankfully, PGI kept the whole 12-hour video from last Sunday online. So you can see the entire debacle so long as you’re willing to skip to roughly 6 hours in.

Which I can do for you. You’re welcome.

Watch MechCon Vancouver 2018 from PiranhaGames on www.twitch.tv

Like I said, rather than fight it out themselves, the two grandfathers of BattleTech picked two randos out of the audience to be there “advisors”. And by choose, it was more like Gitelman picked the best BattleTech player in Harebrained’s office, while Weisman got Willian von Wilhelm Helmut, the guy who won the Valhalla Tournament Of Champions. Whatever that is.

But here’s the thing: BattleTech is a game of random numbers. And on top of that, Weisman and Gitelman weren’t all that good at taking instructions. Weisman eventually fired his general, while Gitelman often ignored sound advice in favor of performing yet another DFA maneuver.

This year, the numbers were on Gitelman’s side. While last year he had to serve as Weisman’s bondsman, this year the tables are turned and it will be Weisman who washes Gitelman’s car and brews his lattes. They are from Seattle, after all.

Afterward the fight (and somewhat during), the two hosted a live Q&A session about the future of BattleTech. They revealed that more Unseen ‘Mechs are set to arrive, including the Marauder and Warhammer heavy ‘Mechs, but not to expect them in the next planned expansion which is Urban Warfare.

Catalyst Game Labs Answers Questions, Proves That Box Sets Actually Exist

The boys and girls at Catalyst Game Labs were also at Mech_Con to show everyone going gaga over MechWarrior 5 that there’s a simpler, slower, and lower-tech way of playing BattleTech that involves dice, miniatures, and a lot of reading. No, more reading than that–veritable textbooks of reading. Tomes, if you will.

I kid. I only wish I had the free time to play an actual, sit-down-and-roll-dice game of BattleTech.

But also as with last year, Catalyst answered a bunch of questions from the hardcore BattleTech faithful, chief among them was “where the hell are those brand new box sets you’ve been promising since last year?”

The answer: in the warehouse, and expecting to be at brick and mortar stores by the end of the month. It sounds like it might miss the Christmas rush, but maybe you’ll get it in time for New Years.

Box Sets

In addition to the new box sets, Catalyst Primary Randall N. Bills and BattleTech Line Developer Brent Evans also dropped a few new items on the horizon, such as new map pack called “grasslands” (to arrive sometime in March) as well as a reprint of the BattleTech Manual for BattleTech’s 35th anniversary.

We also got some news about Shattered Fortress, which will become a stepping stone to the hotly anticipated Il-Clan sourcebook. We also got a strong hint that the universe will go back to hammering the Capellan Confederation into space dust in the tradition of the classic BattleTech novels.

As always, new fiction is the top priority for BattleTech fans, which Evans was happy to reveal that there are no less than 30 fiction projects of varying length currently in progress. These will become available via electronic distribution (ie. Amazon) as soon as they’re done, which we’ll report on once we’ve got a title to share.

Oh, and since the whole Unseen business is finally settled, expect to see some new sculpts coming out. We don’t know when, but some redesigned Warhammer and Marauder minis could be here sometime next year.

MechWarrior Online World Finals Crowns New Champions

A new day has dawned in competitive MechWarrior Online. Two-time champions EmpyreaL have finally been dethroned by last year’s runner-ups, Eon Synergy.

Whereas EmpyreaL was the dominant force in competitive MWO for several years, EON Synergy displayed incredible skill and tactics during this year’s tournament that made them completely unstoppable. Despite EmpreaL’s team of veteran players, EON never lost a game, and the look of absolute relief after proving that EmpyreaL is not invincible could be felt even through an LCD screen.

This year’s winning team were awarded medals and a shared first place prize of $34,653. They also got a ton of in-game content, although, with the amount of ‘Mechs these guys probably already have, one wonders just how much value they’ll get with an extra 50 million C-Bills.

And that’s it for this year’s Mech_Con! Join us next year when I’ll hopefully get paid to fly to Vancouver on first-class tickets due to the incredible importance of Sarna’s first-hand reporting! And I’ll be sure to bring my BattleTech TCG cards when I do. I heard there were a bunch of you jokesters playing this year.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Mech_Con 2018 Roundup Day 1 – MW5 Release Date, Trailers, And A New ‘Mech!

MW5 Banner

Another year, another Mech_Con has come and gone. Sadly, yours truly was unable to attend this year’s convention due to financial constraints (and because I couldn’t find a couch to sleep on in Vancouver), but that doesn’t mean we won’t talk about all the latest and greatest announcements that came out of the biggest BattleTech-only convention of the year.

This year’s convention was a 2-day affair, which means instead of trying to jam 24-hours of BattleTech awesomeness into a single 12-hour period (which went well into the wee hours of the morning if I recall correctly), the organizers have spread the announcements over both Saturday and Sunday. As the first day is all about MechWarrior Online and MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, we’ll be talking about those first.

MechWarrior 5 Release Date Announced

Last summer, MechWarrior 5’s December 2018 release date was pushed back to be sometime in 2019. Now, we have a specific date in 2019 when we can expect to see the first single-player MechWarrior experience in nearly two decades.

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries drops on September 10th, 2019.

Along with the announcement at this year’s Mech_Con, developers Piranha Games dropped a brand new trailer to give everyone a taste of how it will feel to be a mercenary commander.

The trailer very much reminds me of Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries, and I suspect that’s very much by design. First, you see your female commander ride her Victor into battle against a Hunchback and a King Crab. Being out-gunned nearly two to one obviously doesn’t go well for the Victor, who blows up before even being properly introduced.

Next it switches to the player, who starts off in a Cicada. This again reminds me of MechWarrior 2: Mercs as my first ride after performing the Commando-required training missions was always the Cicada.

Of course, I was very young at the time and didn’t understand that the Cicada was a terrible ‘Mech. It went fast, had a few lasers, and weighed more than anything else on the field, and that was good enough for me.

After the Cicada, the player seems to upgrade to the Griffin GRF-1S, then follows that up with a Dragon, a Thunderbolt, and finally a Stalker. The clear implication is you build up your mercenary company from battlefield salvage as you go along, much like the old MechWarrior: Mercenaries games did.

Some of the big takeaways here are the sound effects, which seem vastly improved over last year’s trailer, as well as the graphics and environmental effects, which are also improved.

Of course, this is just a trailer and not necessarily indicative of gameplay. That’s why we also have a 20-minute gameplay demo that also shows how far MechWarrior 5 has come since last year.

This gameplay demo comes courtesy of Giuseppe over at Twinfinite, who was lucky enough to sit in one of the 4 “pods” that PGI set up for Mech_Con. Each pod had a full Thrustmaster joystick setup and was tied together to test MechWarrior 5’s co-op capability, which is sure to be a game-changer for the series.

The demo starts off which each pilot walking along a dropship gantry to pick which ‘Mech they’ll pilot. Giuseppe hops aboard a Thunderbolt, which is a fantastic choice if I do say so myself. I’ve gotta say, the dropship’s Mechbay is a very impressive addition to the MechWarrior franchise and really gives you a sense of scale for the ‘Mechs you’ll be piloting.

As soon as the game starts, you can see a drastic improvement in graphics from last year’s game. Last year, things looked very drab, dull, and plain. This year, the colors seem more vibrant and there’s a much greater emphasis on textures and greenery to make the terrain come alive.

Admittedly, it does seem that framerate issues remain, so optimization will be a big deal. But PGI has 10 months to figure that out, which should be plenty of time. If last year’s game was a playable alpha build, this year seems much closer to a playable beta build.

Of particular note was the voice acting, which seems to take a page out of BattleTech’s book and casts some memorable voice actors to belt out some lines when beginning a mission.

The music seems adequate if not particularly outstanding, but that’s also subject to change in a year, and I’m sure you can always replace the tunes with MechWarrior 2 covers if you prefer.

Along with the 20-minute demo, we also got a sweet piece of box art for the game. Although it seems highly unlikely anyone will actually buy this game in stores, you still gotta have something to put on a web page to advertise your game, and once again, the talented Alex Iglesias hits it out of the park with this terrifying image of a rampaging King Crab.

Since when did the King Crab become the poster child of the MechWarrior franchise? It seems all the marketing material is going King Crab over Atlas these days.

MechWarrior Online Reveals Brand New ‘Mech – The Corsair

Just like last year’s introduction of the Sun Spider, PGI is bringing yet another brand new ‘Mech to the world of BattleTech.

Corsair

It’s called the Corsair, and Catalyst Game Labs’ Randall Bills has once again given the new ‘Mech his blessing with another fantastic short story describing its origin. I highly recommend going over to the MechWarrior Online website to give the Corsair a quick read-through, or you can get the Cole’s Notes version on our very own Wiki here.

The Corsair is described as a classic “FrankenMech” made from the bits and pieces that periphery bandits and pirate groups can salvage from whatever is available. According to the ‘Mechs description on the PGI website, all of these pirate FrankenMechs are cobbled together from various heavy and assault ‘Mechs and given the blanket designation of “Corsair.” This would mean that Corsairs don’t have any particular weight or loadout and can be made of pretty much anything.

And the Corsair’s visuals certainly confirm its hodge-podge nature. Its chest looks like the blade of a bulldozer, its right shoulder seems to come from a Thunderbolt, while the legs are only vague symmetrical without having any symmetry to their armor plating. Your guess is as good as mine as to where those arms came from.

However, when the Corsair is introduced to MechWarrior Online later in March, it’ll come with a set of standard loadouts and designations much like every other Inner Sphere ‘Mech. This sort of belies the Corsair’s FrankenMech nature by making every version come with the same tonnage (95-tons) and one of 5 weapon loadouts, but it’s likely that a variable weight ‘Mech would require a drastic overhaul of MechWarrior Online’s base code.

With MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries only 10 months away, there’s no way PGI would pour that kind of manpower just to make one ‘Mech a little more flavorful. If we’re lucky, we’ll see some true Corsair-style ‘Mechs in MW5.

The COR-5R sort of looks like if an Orion had sex with a Thunderbolt and then ran headlong into a bulldozer. An AC/10, LRM-15, SRM-6, 3 Medium Lasers, and one Large Laser is surprisingly competent for a pre-Clans era Inner Sphere ‘Mech. It looks like there are enough hardpoints to allow for quite some variation too.

As with any MechWarrior Online ‘Mech, the Corsair’s true performance will all come down to its quirks, but we won’t know about those until closer to the ‘Mech’s ship date on March 19th.

MechWarrior Online Announces Huge Holiday Bonus

via MWO

Last year, if you played MechWarrior Online on December 27th, you got two free hero ‘Mechs (the Sun Spider and the Roughneck) along with a ton of in-game cash and free loot. This year, they’re doing the same thing by giving away the hero variant Corsair as well as the upcoming Warhammer IIC.

A lot of people have fond memories of the Warhammer IIC as the best damned 80-ton assault ‘Mech you could use in MechWarrior 2. Those same gamers are hoping it will be the best damned 80-ton assault ‘Mech in MechWarrior Online. You’ll be able to find out for sure on December 27th if you play just a single game. You don’t even have to win–you just have to play.

Along with the ‘Mechs, you get 6,000,000 C-Bills in spending money (which should be enough to customize one of the two ‘Mechs), 1,250 MC (which is game equivalent of real-world money), and 7-days of Premium Time to encourage you to play a little longer than one game.


And that’ll do for today! Join us next time as we cover the MechWarrior Online World Championship Finals, announcements from Harebrained Schemes and Catalyst Game Labs, and maybe even peek at a few of the posted photos over on Twitter.

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Community Outreach – Interview With BanditB17 And mdmzero0 On The 2018 MechWarrior Online World Championship Finals

It’s that time of year again, ‘Mech fans! The MechWarrior Online World Championship is just around the corner. The three final teams have crushed all others to become the best three teams in the world, and we sit down with MWO shoutcasters BanditB17 and mdmzero0 to get their take on this year’s tournament.

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First BattleTech Expansion – Flashpoint – Arrives November 27th

We all knew this day was coming. Flashpoint, the first of hopefully many BattleTech expansions, has been given a release date of November 27th. You can pre-order now and save 10% off your purchase on Steam.

As we may have mentioned before (Hatchetman), there are several exciting new chassis to explore with this expansion (Hatchetman). First is the quick and nimble Crab, capable of operating for extended periods behind enemy lines thanks to it’s all energy loadout (still not a Hatchetman though). There’s also the Cyclops, another C-word ‘Mech that comes with a Lostech battle computer to help with team resolve throughout the fight (still waiting on my Hatchetman).

And of course, how could we forget: the melee-focused Hatchetman (YES!) which uses a 5-ton hatchet to carve its enemies into scrap.

Flashpoints themselves play out as new end-game short story campaigns that will test your skill as a commander but can come with some incredible rewards. Lostech and rare weapons are at the end of these multi-mission mini-campaigns that can range from two to six missions in length. You’ll need to bring many men and machines to take on these varied sorties as there will be no time to rest or refit before the next mission begins.

In the latest update, Mitch told us that there are approximately 30 hours of new content to be had in Flashpoint, but that seems to completely ignore the numerous hours to be spent grinding out flashpoints for that sweet sweet loot.

Also, apparently the tropical biome has spore clouds. I’m not sure what that means, but nobody has ever looked at a spore cloud and said, “Hey, that looks like a fun place to be!”

In even bigger news, Harebrained Schemes has confirmed there will be two more expansions on top of Flashpoint, with the first one being called Urban Warfare. There were a few somewhat urban settings found in the regular BattleTech campaign, but no true urban settings with enormous skyscrapers and densely packed city streets. That’s all set to change with the next expansion, coming out in the summer of next year (hopefully).

If you’re thinking there might finally be a use for the UrbanMech, then you might be right. Too bad we have to wait until the summer to find out.

Oh, and there’s a season pass available for 20% off on Steam too. I’ma get me that. Daddy likes to save his Canadian pesos.

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Harebrained Schemes Reveals BattleTech: Flashpoint Gameplay, Kills Dekker

Crab Flashpoint

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

Harebrained Schemes and Paradox Interactive just finished their first livestream gameplay reveal of the upcoming Flashpoint expansion for BattleTech.

Last Thursday, Harebrained bigwig Mitch Gitelman and lead BattleTech designer Kiva Maginn sat down with Anders Carlsson of Paradox Interactive to do a live Twitch stream of an early development build of the upcoming BattleTech expansion, Flashpoint. And they barely made it out with a single ‘Mech.

Flashpoints are a new post-campaign mission type where the player will engage in a sort of BattleTech short story. Each contract is comprised of a series of missions varying between two to six. Since these all take place one after the other, there won’t be any chance for major refits or for pilots to recover from injuries. You’ll need to have an A-team and a B-team of both ‘Mechs and pilots to replace your losses throughout the Flashpoint.

Since these missions take place after the campaign, it assumes the player is an experienced veteran and is looking for an additional challenge. Thus, the missions are likely going to be harder than your average campaign mission. However, the rewards for completing a Flashpoint can include Lostech, rare equipment, and other such goodies that might make the sacrifice in man and machine worth it.

The initial teaser made it seem like Flashpoints weren’t available until after the main campaign, but Gitelman let it drop that there are some changes coming in patch 1.3 that might allow Flashpoints to occur concurrently with the campaign–so long as you’re at an “open sandbox” portion, that is.

Obviously things are still in development and subject to change, but this seems like it’ll greatly enhance the core BattleTech gameplay.

Kiva and Mitch showed off a single mission during the stream with a new mission type called “Target Acquisition”. This new mission type requires you to bring a lance of fast but tough machines since you’ll need to split your forces to grab several key locations in order to call in an artillery drop. Each ‘Mech needs to be fast enough to get to the location quickly, but tough enough to take a beating once they get there.

Our Harebrained heroes were up against two full Steiner lances, which meant they were up against a lot of heavy firepower. Also, since they were looking to show off the new ‘Mech designs, their composition wasn’t exactly ideal. Consequently, two pilots died and one ejected (and yes, Dekker was one of them).

We got our first good look at the new Crab, Hatchetman, and Cyclops designs before most of them bought it. The Crab is as expected: swift, low-slung, and filled to the brim with lasers. The Hatchetman can be a deadly combatant in melee but is vulnerable to long-range fire. The Cyclops comes with a Lostech Battle Computer that will greatly affect your lance’s resolve, but Harebrained is still tweaking by just how much.

From the looks of things, this Flashpoint would be hard even for a fully prepared mercenary commander. Mitch said that the team had actually nerfed the difficulty twice, so maybe this is a case where some more tweaks are still in store. At least the new tropical biome looked gorgeous throughout the video.

You can check out the whole stream on Paradox’s Twitch channel, or here where I’ve helpfully embedded it for you. I’m helpful.

Watch BattleTech from ParadoxInteractive on www.twitch.tv

We don’t know when in November Flashpoint will come out, but even if it’s a little later in the month that’s still just a few weeks away. If you’ve already gone through a few campaigns in BattleTech, be prepared to dust off your old save file to get ready to drop jokers with a hatchet to the face.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Original BattleTech Pods In Grand Rapids Michigan Moving To New Dedicated Site

courtesy of Virtual World Entertainment

courtesy of Virtual World Entertainment

Some original BattleTech Center virtual reality pods are moving to a new dedicated “Pod Site” in Grand Rapids Michigan.

Those old enough to remember the Virtual World Entertainment pods will be happy to hear that they’re alive and well, and the set located in Michigan are migrating to a new location where they will continue to be tweaked, preserved, and even played in.

A few weeks ago, current Virtual World Entertainment owner Nickolas “PropWash” Smith posted to the BattleTech subreddit that he’ll be taking a contingent of the original BattleTech: Firestorm pods from their current storage location and bringing them to a dedicated pod site in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Previously, your best opportunity to get insides one of these delightful relics was to go to one of the many conventions where Nick and the gang bring their portable pods. However, with the new site, you’ll have a chance to get a real taste of what it’s like to be in a “real” ‘Mech cockpit–minus the oppressive heat and need for a neurohelmet of course.

courtesy of Virtual World Entertainment

For those not old enough to remember, Virtual World Entertainment was the FASA off-shoot that dealt with turning the games that FASA made into “location-based entertainment experiences,” more commonly referred to as arcade games. They had a pretty nice heyday throughout the ‘90s, but as the demand for arcades began to wane in the early 2000’s (combined with FASA’s decision to abruptly cease operations in 2001), Virtual World was put up for sale.

Microsoft first acquired Virtual World Entertainment along with FASA Interactive, but then they sold Virtual World again to an investment group.

At the time, these simulator pods were state of the art arcade games that an investment firm would have seen no value except to sell for scrap. Some pods almost certainly were scrapped, but a concerted effort from Virtual World owners and a dedicated player community managed to save most of these pods from the scrap yard.

And while there are multiple former Virtual World pods out there operated by several different groups, the original Virtual World Entertainment company continues to remain operational under the ownership of one Nickolas Smith. Nick purchased the company in 2005 and has dutifully safeguarded these priceless pieces of real-life Lostech for 20 years.

courtesy of VGLU on Facebook

And upgraded them. The pods themselves weren’t originally meant to be carried from convention to convention, and only with diligent work from many dedicated enthusiasts were they able to become portable. This allowed Nick (as well as others pod owners) to bring their hardware to various BattleTech conventions.

Between conventions, these Michigan based pods were initially kept in storage at Nick’s house–a far cry from the public arcades they used to be found in. I myself remember getting my first lick at a BattleTech pod from a Dave and Buster’s over a decade ago. I’m nowhere near a convention that BattleTech is featured at, so without an arcade, I’d have never been able to enjoy pulling levers and pushing pedals as though I were a real ‘Mech pilot.

Obviously, keeping a bunch of VWE pods at a random house in Michigan is less than ideal. Nick moved his cockpits to Grand Rapids in 2010 and put them under the care of Jeff Perry at the Big Kidz Games retail store. Now they’re being moved to a new site storage in Grand Rapids that will open during select special events for public play or by private reservation. The new location will be called the Virtual Geographic League Underground, or VGLU for short–a call back to the fictional Virtual World origins story.

I had a chance to speak to Nick recently, and he says that the new location will operate by word of mouth and social media–sort of like a modern speakeasy. If you follow the Virtual World Entertainment Facebook group (or the VGLU Facebook group) then you’ll be able to ask how and when you can get your hands behind the control sticks of a piece of BattleTech history.

Currently there are 18 pods, all running both BattleTech: Firestorm–that’s the one based on MechWarrior 4. But these pods are running far more than the original software. They’ve been tweaked, modded, and improved beyond what you might remember. All the original ‘Mechs are still there, but there are also the MekTek ‘Mech Packs that expanded the MechWarrior 4 arsenal to over 100 chassis, and even more custom designs added after that.

The new Grand Rapids site will open during Brocktoberfest on October 12th through 14th (Brocktoberfest being a reference to the game Red Planet that I didn’t understand beyond the fact that Red Planet was another game run on the Virtual World pods). The best way to get involved is via the Facebook groups I linked above.

And while you’re there, consider making a donation–these pods are kept alive and even improved thanks to the hard work of some dedicated individuals, but MacGyvering replacement parts in an ever-dwindling supply can get expensive.

For those not in the Michigan area, there are plenty of other locations to try out these incredible machines, including locations in Albuquerque, Houston, Minneapolis, and a site recently opened in Montreal, Canada. Check out the link here for specific locations.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

BattleTech Releases Teaser Video For New Expansion: Flashpoint

BattleTech Releases Teaser Video For New Expansion: Flashpoint

courtesy of Gamestar

BattleTech is about to get its first expansion called Flashpoint.

We knew this day was coming. BattleTech has been a great success for Harebrained and new publisher Paradox Interactive, and various HBS personalities have been dropping hints for a while that an expansion was in the offing. Now it has a name: Flashpoint.

Rather than a whole new campaign to play alongside the original, Flashpoint will instead be a whole bunch of smaller stories that are book-ended by procedurally generated missions. Some of them have to be played back-to-back without any opportunity for rest and refit, adding to the sense that you’re a mercenary company on extended operations in the field.

New conversation options, no critical decisions, and new special events will all find their way into Flashpoint’s multi-story campaign.

There’s no word on whether you retain your company from the original campaign or start a brand new merc company with the new story. We’ll have to wait for more details on that one.

We here at Sarna know that fantastically written stories will only take you so far. Harebrained knows that too. That’s why they’re adding three new ‘Mechs to the game, and for the first time ever, one of them has a melee weapon: the Crab, the Cyclops, and the Hatchetman.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment. The Hatchetman. For the first time ever, you’ll be able to swing your big, stupid ax at some schmuck and watch them literally come apart at the seams.

Unfortunately, due to the momentous occasion of the Hatchetman arriving in a BattleTech video game, I won’t be able to extoll the virtues of the Crab or Cyclops–both fantastic ‘Mechs in their own right. The Hatchetman is just that big of a deal.

Alright, let’s take a few deep breaths before we move on.

There’s a new biome, which will be very beach-y, and there’s a new mission type called “Target Acquisition” which will give your light and medium ‘Mechs something to do while the assaults facetank. Judging by the press release, it’s probably something to do with “capture the flag” or whatever.

Did I mention the Hatchetman is coming? I might have gotten excited and forgotten to mention the Hatchetman.

We don’t have a release date other than the standard “coming soon” at the end of the teaser video. If Paradox follows the same pattern with expansions for their other games (and as a player of Stellaris, I’m intimately familiar with this pattern), then we can expect a price around 20 bucks (or $30 if you’re an unlucky Canuck like I am).

Hatchetman.

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Retro BattleTech Games, “MechWarrior 3050”

MechWarrior 3050

Welcome back to Did You Know?, the Sarna series where we look at some of the obscure corners of BattleTech history. We’re continuing our series on retro BattleTech video games with a look at an old favorite from the days of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System: MechWarrior 3050.

I go on a lot about how MechWarrior 2 was the first BattleTech game I’ve ever played, and while we’ll eventually get to the Activision classic where I will sing its praises to the high heavens, it is not actually the first BattleTech game I ever played.

That dubious honor goes to MechWarrior 3050. Or actually, the Sega Genesis version, which was named BattleTech for no particular reason other than to differentiate itself. It’s the same game, although the SNES version was developed by Tiburon Entertainment and the Sega game was made by Malibu Interactive. Tiburon eventually got sucked into the enormous games empire that became EA, while Malibu Interactive morphed into a “media management” company and no longer makes video games.

Malibu Interactive pioneered the sort of top-down isometric gameplay that became the hallmark of various games throughout the early ‘90s published through EA. Somehow, the boys over at Malibu managed to get their hands on a BattleTech license and made their own game, following the same format they used in the Strike series of helicopter games: Desert Strike and Jungle Strike. Tiburon eventually ported it to the SNES under the name MechWarrior 3050 to leech off the popularity of MechWarrior 2, which was a best-selling PC game at the time.

I played both Desert Strike and Jungle Strike and I loved every second of them. It was perhaps the very first “open sandbox”-style of game I’d ever played (having skipped The Legend of Zelda since elves were lame, but attack helicopters were cool). And while Desert Strike and Jungle Strike managed to create an engaging and fun experience, MechWarrior 3050 suffered from quite a few problems.

Pic 2

But first, a brief explanation for those unfamiliar with the game. In MechWarrior 3050 (or BattleTech for us Sega babies) you play as an unnamed Clan Wolf MechWarrior during the invasion of the Inner Sphere. Missions amount to little more than orders being barked at you by Galaxy Commander Conal Ward (although he’s called Colonel Ward in the game) and then you got dropped solo in your Timberwolf to carry out those orders behind enemy lines.

Before each mission, you’re able to customize your ‘Mech’s armament to suit the objective, choosing between ER PPCs, Gauss Rifles, Arrow VI Missiles (even though those should be Arrow IVs) and a selection of smaller armaments. Each weapon has different properties, such as extreme range on the Arrow VIs or an area-of-effect cluster bomb-like explosion on the Gauss Rifle.

For those of you who haven’t played the game, you’re probably already a little annoyed with all the weird departures from BattleTech canon this game has already taken. Trust me, those departures are hardly the worst aspects of MechWarrior 3050. If you want an exhaustive list of every way the game diverges from BattleTech lore, you can check out the Sarna wiki-page on the matter. Suffice to say, Malibu Interactive played VERY fast and loose with the lore, which is likely why it never really caught on with the BattleTech faithful.

I played this game back before I’d even known about the BattleTech universe, but even then I found some of the game’s choices pretty questionable. Why did lasers require ammunition? Why did my ‘Mech never take damage and instead required “coolant” to repair itself? Why did Gauss Rifles arc and explode like cluster bombs when the booklet said it was a magnetically accelerated slug?

It was weird, but if you’re willing to look past it, there were worse problems.

Easily the biggest issue the game has was the big-honkin’ 75-ton ‘Mech sitting in the middle of the screen. In order to give the impression of size, Malibu made the Timberwolf appropriately large in comparison to everything else. The only problem with that was that your ‘Mech took up most of your view and prevented you from seeing your opponents before they were already on top of you.

Mostly due to your own ‘Mech taking up most of the screen, the game was extremely challenging. You’d be getting shot from off-screen with no other warning besides your ‘Mech taking damage. Enemy ‘Mechs would charge in and get off multiple shots before you could even respond, causing the player to panic and miss vitally important retorts.

Pic 5

Besides that, there were various tunnels and bases that would endlessly spawn enemies until the player could destroy them. This endless spawn system would also tax your limited ammunition supplies, making empty ammo bins a common enough problem that the player would be forced to commit seppuku just to restock their weapons (you had three lives for each mission, and respawning meant a full ammo bin). 

In Malibu’s previous helicopter-based games, it was possible to take your time and carefully assess situations before committing to action. In MechWarrior 3050, that wasn’t an option. Endlessly spawning enemies combined with limited perspective made the only method of progression a depressing grind of trial and error, repeating each planet until you’d simply memorized the locations of all ammo drops and enemies.

To sum up, MechWarrior 3050 was really freakin’ hard. I beat it once, but after that, I traded it in for a copy of Jungle Strike where I had infinitely more fun.

In retrospect, I think that MechWarrior 3050 was an attempt by an EA-affiliated developer to cash in on an established audience. They took the same engine from their previous games, replaced the helicopter with a giant stompy robot, and then threw in a bunch of random bits of BattleTech lore without bothering to fact check or even ensure that anything made sense. There was a distinct lack of polish compared to previous offerings that really soured the whole thing.

The most hilarious aspect of the game was how Colonel Ward would just announce your promotion until eventually declaring you Kahn, but he’d still act like he was your boss.

Was there anything good about MechWarrior 3050? Well, your Timberwolf’s animation looked very smooth (especially in comparison to enemy ‘Mechs), and it was certainly a challenging game. But these minor pros don’t counterbalance the much larger list of cons.

I give MechWarrior 3050 1 star out of 5.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Retro BattleTech Games, “The Crescent Hawks’ Inception”

 

Welcome back to Did You Know?, the Sarna feature where we take a look at some of the more obscure corners of BattleTech history. We’re kicking off a series on retro video games, and what could possibly be more retro than the very first BattleTech computer game than BattleTech: The Crescent Hawks’ Inception?

Originally released in 1988, this bad boy was made for the original Commodore 64. I’m not nearly old enough to remember these ancient personal computers, but if they’re anything like the Nintendo 64, it must’ve been revolutionary for its time.

To get this game to function on a modern computer would require running a virtual machine on Windows and possibly some light computer engineering knowledge that I simply don’t have the time or inclination to learn. Luckily, we live in the age of the internet, and no matter how old or obscure the game, someone has done a Let’s Play series about it on YouTube.

We have MrTatteredRags to thank for this lovely Let’s Play that goes from beginning to end of The Crescent Hawks’ Inception, which I will henceforth shorten to simply CHI. Produced by Westwood Associates (the developer that would eventually become the legendary Westwood Studios of Command & Conquer fame) CHI followed the standard format for most Infocom games at the time–that being a text-based adventure game with a few basic animations and the most god-awful sound effects possible.

Just take a few moments to experience the game’s opening. This is bad, even by 1988 standards.

Full disclosure: I’ve experienced text-based adventure games before, but they were usually only in the form of a brief joke scene in a more modern game. The only game I’ve ever played that took the genre seriously was Space Ranger, a Russian top-down space adventure game that mixes RTS and RPG elements as well as the aforementioned text adventure portion.

Frankly, I don’t know how anyone can endure an entire game that’s just wandering around Legend of Zelda-style until you have to do some light reading and option selection, but the late ‘80s were a vastly different time for gaming.

In CHI, you play as Jason Youngblood, a young military cadet on the Steiner planet of Pacifica (aka Chara III). You’re the son of war her Jeremiah Youngblood, the Lyran HQ’s security chief and someone who oddly has the ear of Archon Katrina Steiner.

Crescent Hawk 4

He’ll soon die and leave you in charge of a guerrilla campaign to overthrow invaders from the Draconis Combine, but before then you’re just a cadet in training. So you can wander around and do some training missions to learn how to use guns, rifles, and even a bow and arrow.

Learning how to use a bow and arrow seems oddly low-tech in the world of BattleTech, but again, it was the ‘80s. You weren’t a warrior until you learned how to kill a man with a bow and arrow.

You can also go on training missions in ‘Mechs–ostensibly the whole reason why you’re there. Your choice of machine is either a Locust, Wasp, or the rarely seen Chameleon. There’s little to say for the animation of any particular ‘Mech with the 8-bit designs basically getting the overall outline correct without providing much detail.

Crescent Hawk 3

Eventually on one of your training missions, the Draconis Combine invades, destroys the training academy, and leaves you alone to assemble a crack team of Drac-fighting commandos including a ‘Mech tech, a field nurse, and even a former Kell Hound. This is when the game really picks up and where your earlier training determines how easy you find the game’s remaining tasks.

It turns out that the Dracs are on Pacifica to raid an old Star League-era weapons depot that your father discovered while stationed here. You also find out that your father was actually the commander of an elite covert operations team called the Crescent Hawks, and as you wander around Pacifica gathering allies you adopt your father’s unit name and assume command.

I guess “cadet” makes you the ranking officer on planet?

There are a lot of holes like this in the general plot of the game. Apparently the Crescent Hawks are also somehow related to the Kell Hounds (because almost everything good and noble in the Lyran Commonwealth is related to that mercenary company) and the Crescent Hawks were given carte blanche from Katrina Steiner herself to operate as an independent military unit.

Crescent Hawk 5

Another thing I found somewhat odd was how everything in the game costs C-bills. That’s fine, Lyrans are merchants after all, but you’d think being a guerrilla group operating on a recently invaded planet that the locals might be a bit more eager to help out with donations.

Perhaps the greatest sin this game makes, however, is how it ends with such an obvious setup for the sequel (SPOILER ALERT!). You barely resolve anything: Jason locates the Star League-era cache, finds his dad’s ‘Mech (a PHX-HK2 Phoenix Hawk LAM of all things), and you escape the planet via dropship with a communique direct from Katrina offering you a commission in the Lyran Armed Forces.

Phoenix Hawk LAM

But no, you refuse her offer to go looking for your father, who must surely still be alive since you found his ‘Mech (I know there are other reasons too, but that was the big “payoff” near the end-game).

As much as the whole game reads as BattleTech fan-fiction rather than anything even remotely approaching canon, it seems that Crescent Hawks’ Inception was well received by the fan base. So well received that it became written into canon in subsequent official publications from FASA.

Personally, I think that CHI got a lot of goodwill simply because it was the first of its kind. Looking at it with the critical eye of someone who came of age during the days of MechWarrior 2, the plot was flimsy and at times nonsensical, the sound effects were either hilarious or nonexistent, and the game’s visuals were what I’d imagine a coked-out pixel artist’s rendition of Robotech would look like.

On the plus side, CHI needed to happen in order for every other BattleTech game to come after it. Plus, the Phoenix Hawk LAM is always pretty cool.

I give it two stars out of five.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

BattleTech Tips And Tools Of The Trade

Centurion

I’ve now clocked in a solid 100 hours in BattleTech, with my latest run being focused on using what I’ve learned from my previous character to run through the plot in an ideal way. No lack of ‘Mechs, pilots, or components will mar my perfect experience. I’ll always get the ‘Mech I want, and I even went so far as to mod the game so I started off with a bespoke lance consisting of a Firestarter, Jenner, Shadow Hawk SHD-2D, and a Griffin GRS-1S.

That was just so I could have a slightly different experience than my previous playthrough. Since everything is randomized, all ‘Mechs after the first few missions will always be different outside of the story missions, so I didn’t have any concerns about boredom after I got started.

But now that I’ve achieved what I’d like to consider as “veteran” status in the game, I felt it right that I bestow upon you, dear Sarna reader, some of the tips I’ve learned in my career as a mercenary lance commander.

Locust

To start, I’ve always found that grinding out a bunch of easy missions early on will make the tougher missions that much easier for you later. The reason here is that grinding simple missions gives you XP that will make your pilots better. Once a pilot reaches certain milestones they get a huge power boost which can help turn the tide of a battle in your favor.

“Being able to move and shoot first is huge.”

One thing I’ve found to be a huge boon is the Master Tactician skill. Found under the Tactics tree at level 8, it allows your ‘Mechs to move at a higher initiative. This means that Assault ‘Mechs move at the same time as Heavy ‘Mechs, Heavies move at the same time as Mediums, and Medium ‘Mechs move at the same time as Lights.

Being able to move and shoot first is huge. If you can take out a few dangerous opponents before they have a chance to fire it will allow you to take on waves of opponents that would seem impossible to defeat on paper.

Master Tactician will always come with Sensor Lock as a secondary skill, which leaves tertiary skill to choose. I like to have a mix of Bulwark, Evasive Movement, and Multi-Target for my pilots. Bulwark is good for heavies and assaults to belly up to the line and face-tank whatever the enemy throws at them, while Evasive Movement is great for scouts and fast-movers. Multi-Target is better for missions with a lot of soft targets such as tanks or structures, but it can be difficult to predict if a mission will throw a swarm of Galleons at you or not.

Spider

What ‘Mechs you use is far more dependant on what ‘Mechs you fight than anything else (unless you want to mod the game as I did), but there are a few to keep an eye out for thanks to their weapon-efficient loadouts.

The Shadow Hawk SHD-2D is a personal favorite. You can load it up with 1,000 armor, 3 Medium Lasers, 2 SRM-6s, and 2 Small Lasers to turn it into a tough and deadly brawler. For whatever reason, the Shadow Hawk deals increased melee damage compared to other Medium ‘Mechs–closer to a 70-ton Heavy–so it’s the perfect design to get up close and personal with.

Light ‘Mechs eventually become too poorly armored to use later in the game (although I’ve heard some skilled commanders have beaten the game entirely with Light ‘Mechs), but the Firestarter is another close-range brawler that is utterly terrifying. Keep the Flamers or swap them for a battery of Small Lasers, and either way, once it gets in close whatever it’s fighting is dead.

The Shadow Hawk SHD-2D is the perfect design to get up close and personal with.

The Orion is relatively common and can be customized to be almost anything: a close-range brawler, a long-range sniper, or even a missile boat. In the Assault category, I came across quite a few Highlanders in my first playthrough and found them all to be equally amazing.

Short Range Missiles are, ton for ton, the most weight-efficient way of dealing damage. Before the latest patch they were utterly devastating when combined with Precision Strike, the ability that allows you to use morale to target specific components, but since then their ability to core a ‘Mech in a single salvo has diminished somewhat. Still, they’re potent, and a personal favorite of mine.

Laser boats were previously too hot to be effective, but the patch has also lowered the heat cost of Large Lasers to the point where they might be usable. I’ll have to do more testing, but I’m looking forward to finding a Black Knight or a Grasshopper to test it out.

If you can find a PPC+++ then they might be worth using, but generally I found them to generate too much heat for too little damage to be of much use.

Long range weapons aren’t really all that great in BattleTech thanks to a fog of war that reduces visibility to barely a few meters in front of you. If you feel you must take something with some range, Long Range Missiles are your best bet. They can fire over obstacles to soften your opponents up, and they deal a ton of stability damage with the right mods.

Autocannons are certainly better balanced in this game than on the tabletop, but they’re still not efficient enough in terms of damage per ton to compare with lasers and SRMs. On Assault ‘Mechs it’s not so big a deal since they have tonnage to spare, but on Medium and Heavy ‘Mechs, it’s strictly worse than a loadout weighted toward missiles and lasers.

One last thing: the key to success in BattleTech is using your Precision Strike and Vigilance abilities to their fullest. This means that opting for some increase morale upgrades in the early game might be even more important than faster repairs or healing in the med bay. Just have a team of 8 or more pilots and swap them out when they get a little banged up.

A veteran I may be, but I’m still far from a BattleTech expert. Think you might be one? Then submit your tips and tricks in the comment section below to prove it!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.  

stay syrupy